Update! The Adobe Half-a-Loaf Report

August 12th, 2010

So the news comes down this week that Adobe has at last updated Flash for the Mac to bring it closer in alignment to the Windows version at least in one key respect. There’s now limited support for H.264 hardware acceleration, but you have to wonder why it took them so long to get it done, and why only a limited number of Macs are supported.

Now which models are favored is also a question mark. Some stories specify the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M, GeForce 320M or GeForce GT 330M graphics cards, ATI need not apply. Other reports are more expansive, claiming support applies to, according to Macworld, “MacBooks shipped after January 21, 2009; Mac minis shipped after March 3, 2009; MacBook Pros shipped after October 14, 2008; and iMacs shipped after the first quarter of 2009. The Mac Pro and MacBook Air are not supported at this time.”

But at least it’s a more comprehensive list, and millions of Mac users have at least some hope of taking advantage of the added support.

What this means in the real world is that Flash can use these graphics chips to render H.264 Flash-based videos, rather than do it in software. The end result is that less system resources are used and performance is much faster. Owners of portable Macs can see improved battery life.

Adobe is now quoted as stating: “I know it is frustrating for GPU chips which are not compatible. Again, understand that this decision was not made by us and is not in our hands. We do rely on the Video Decode Acceleration framework provided by Apple, which works on specific NVIDIA cards only today.

“For ATI cards, we will need to wait until the Video Decode Acceleration framework does handle those cards.”

So I suppose that means it’s really Apple’s fault, and Adobe still has problems building Flash for Macs, or just doesn’t care to help add that support. More to the point, you surely cannot expect Adobe to actually deliver a credible version for Apple’s mobile products.

At the same time, the it has now been confirmed that the European Union is joining with our FTC to investigate Apple’s refusal to support Flash-based development tools for the iOS. Now I am not about to address the legal implications. As a practical matter, I agree that Apple’s announced reasons, to ensure that iPhone and iPad apps are easily capable supporting new features, seem reasonable.

Adobe can cry crocodile tears about this all day long, but if their motives are strictly based on greed — the possible impact to sales if fewer Flash tools are sold — then I’d pay them no mind. Besides, I suspect most customers buy Creative Suite apps as bundles, not individual products. That being the case, they get Flash authoring tools whether they want them or need them. If Adobe gave up on Flash, they’d spend less R&D cash developing their apps, and it’s questionable whether they’d really lose that many sales.

Of course, I may be dead wrong. It may be that loads of people choose Flash Professional to the exclusion of a Creative Suite bundle and that could, potentially harm Adobe. Then again, they also need to justify to their stockholders the billions spent in acquiring Flash as part of the acquisition of Macromedia some years back. No sense writing off that investment.

If I sound cynical about the whole thing, it seems to me that Apple is reacting not just to the whims of their chief control freak, CEO Steve Jobs, but is clearly concerned over the fact that Adobe cannot be depended upon to build Mac software promptly, with acceptable performance and reliability. They’ve been late to the party again and again, and this new Flash update, which omits key models in the Mac product lineup when it comes to hardware support, is evidence yet again that Adobe is forcing Apple to play second fiddle to the Microsoft platform.

Indeed, Adobe has always had a way to convince everyone that Apple was wrong about excluding Flash from the mobile platform. All they had to do was demonstrate that they can build a working version running on the latest version of the iOS. As Apple developers, this ought to be a trivial matter for Adobe, and they can even provide YouTube videos to show it can be done.

Except that no such proof-of-concept exists. Yes, there is a version of Flash working on Google’s Android OS, but performance is erratic, according to published reports, and there’s little evidence Adobe would fare any better on Apple’s mobile OS,

On the other hand, when it comes to the decisions made by government officials about whether a company is anticompetitive, they might be looking at the overall potential for harm, particularly to Adobe, not whether Apple was forced to reach a decision based on Adobe’s inaction.

In the end, it’s always possible Apple will be ordered to accept Flash-based development tools, and even to allow Adobe to build an iOS version of Flash. In that event, Apple would have to comply, even if the product was sub-standard.

But I really don’t think it’ll come to that, and I hope I’m right.

| Print This Article Print This Article

18 Responses to “Update! The Adobe Half-a-Loaf Report”

  1. Brian says:

    Maybe Apple just needs to put a warning label on them. “Warning, app is composed of Flash and may bring your device to a crawl. If you notice problems after installation, remove the app, reboot the device and avoid running it in the future until a fully compatible version is available from the vendor.” Apple you can use this text free of charge. You’re welcome. 😉

  2. Snafu says:

    “…Now which models are favored is also a question mark. Some stories specify the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M, GeForce 320M or GeForce GT 330M graphics cards, ATI need not apply…”

    Which just matches Apple’s support of H.264 GPU acceleration, “ATI need not apply” even if they do provide such in many of its GPUs, which inexplicably Apple does not take advantage of. That’s why no mid-2010 Mac Pro is supported unless one adds an old nVidia card or the incoming October’s Quadro.

    Remember: Adobe can do this now because Apple finally deigned to provide an API for H.264 acceleration instead of keeping it private.

  3. Fernando says:

    You know one thing that needs to highlighted is that Apple is no different than Sony (PS3), Microsoft (Xbox), Nintendo (Wii) which require that you use their own development tools to create apps for their platforms. They also have certain standards as to what is and is not appropriate content. Why is no one picking on them?

    I’m sure that Adobe has already tried porting Flash to the iPhone in their labs. The reason why we haven’t a proof of concept on the iPhone is because Flash is a big, bloated, stinking pile of code. I’m sure Adobe would LOVE nothing better than to show up Apple by showing a fully functional, well performing demo of Flash on the iPhone. Here we are going on 3 YEARS since the introduction of the iphone and still nothing.

  4. Darwin says:

    Click to Flash is a free tool for blocking Flash except that wish you want to see.

  5. Louis Wheeler says:

    Transitions suck. Flash’s performance has been quite poor on the Macintosh and HTML5 isn’t quite ready for prime time. It is good that Adobe is addressing its deficiencies on the Mac, rather than using Public Relations to cover them up. Adobe is three to five years too late to save Flash. The reasons for preferring Flash over HTML5 are fading away; two years from now, few people will want to use it.

    It would be a mistake for the government to involve itself in a purely commercial issue. Apple is not being anti-competitive; it is fighting against Adobe’s monopoly. The market isn’t broken; it is just taking its sweet time in moving to a solution.

    If Adobe can fix Flash on Mobile Phones so it doesn’t suck, then Apple will add it to the iPhone. Partially fixing Flash’s problems on the newest Macintoshes doesn’t solve a thing.

    • Richard says:

      @Louis Wheeler,

      I am sorry to have to disagree with you about this, Louis, but it is anti-competitive behavior to block the installation of the software on the iPhone/iPad & etc. That is not to say that Apple is or should be required to do anything other than allow the user to install the software and solve their own problems that appear with it, however. It would be the same as Microsoft prohibiting the installation of software from Corel (e.g. Wordperfect).

      My personal preference, realizing the many problems of Flash, would be to allow its installation and leave it to user owner to determine its usefulness to them using that time honored standard, the pain over pleasure quotient…when it gets too high you don’t use it. With Flash blocking technology the user can make their choice on not just a web site by web site basis, but an item by item basis within a web site to allow or not allow Flash to function. Sadly, there are many web sites still using Flash for navigation buttons or maps where you click on your region to access product support. (Yes, I know that this is an unnecessary and, in my view, inappropriate use of Flash, but it is a widespread reality. I hope this will change soon.) All that said, there are some web sites which must have been designed by someone from another planet because they don’t work well on this planet, even on a desktop and broadband connection because they are so ill conceived and poorly executed. That really is not the fault of Flash itself, although Flash serves as their enabler. One has to wonder just what monstrosity these people would concoct with HTML5 or anything else for that matter.

      On the other hand, yes, transitions do suck. At the present time there really is nothing that is a mature product for video on the smartphones and tablets. Even on the netbooks, Flash uses more than its fair share of resources, but at least the netbook owner has the choice of whether to use Flash on any given web page. HTML5 is not even a standard at the present time. Whether it is the actual successor to Flash remains to be seen. It will have to demonstrate that it is “a better mouse trap” to do so.

      Perhaps the growing number of ARM based devices will speed the transition along.

  6. lkern says:

    solution: Apple buy Adobe and hire people who can develop.

  7. Billy O says:

    Let’s say the powers that decide these things by law in the US and Europe come down on Apple and force them to allow apps to be written with Flash for the iOS, there is still no guarantee that app developers will flock to those tools when creating apps. Could Apple put a disclaimer with every Flash based or developed app pointing out that security and hardware performance may be affected if such app is used?

    Adobe is the company most people love to hate at least on the Mac side. They bought Macromedia the only competition they had, dropped some popular programs from both arsenals and created the money grab Creative Suite upgrade cycle which ships apps not when they have a great new features but when 18 months have past.

    Apple will never buy Adobe no matter how important the base of creative pros it has. Apple has bigger plans in case one has been living in a cave the past 3 years. Adobe will eventually lose the battle to keep Flash vital as technology going forward. The big McMansion of software bundled as Creative Suite will lose out someday to leaner apps coming from new developers selling at a fraction of price of Photoshop. Adobe future my be as a patent troll suing startups that developed anything that resembles once great Adobe program.

  8. Richard says:

    The simple fact of the matter is that HTML5 is not even an approved standard at this time. Adobe Flash is a de facto standard because of its widespread use on the internet. While Flash has a lot of problems, including people who insist on the most complex implementations of even the simplest functions, it is in widespread use and will be for some time to come. To say otherwise is to deny reality. (That’s Steve’s job.)

    • @Richard, I don’t think what Steve Jobs said about Flash’s problems is a denial of reality. He made perfectly valid points about Flash’s instability, security problems and so on and so forth.

      You may disagree with his conclusion that Flash is old technology, but he never denied it is in widespread use. I also agree Flash will be here for a while, and that HTML5 is a work in progress. But none of that means that Apple shouldn’t be blocking Flash from the mobile platform. It’s still up to Adobe to deliver a version for the iOS that meets basic standards of performance, reliability and security, and that’s still missing in action.


      • Richard says:

        @Gene Steinberg,

        I know this will come as a shock to you, Gene, but Steve has personal issues with Adobe that override any business judgment to the contrary. There is no HTML5 standard as yet. It does not exist. Flash with all its faults (not all of which are the fault of Flash itself) is a reality whether or not anyone considers it old. Video in general places great demands on hardware. That is true whether it is QT, wma, mov, MPEG2 or even HTML5, if it is ever standardized. This is not to say that all formats place an equal demand on hardware, but they all place a substantial demand on hardware.

        I invite you to try using the internet for three days without any Flash at all. Either install Click to Flash on Safari or Flashblock on Firefox and give it a try. I think you will find that Flash is much more pervasive than you realize and not just in the grotesquely over produced videos for which it is infamous, or is that notorious?


        • @Richard, I don’t see you actually contradicting anything I’ve said so far as evidence is concerned. I’m aware of how pervasive Flash is, but I do manage to visit most of my favorite sites on my iPhone without suffering seriously.

          There are over 100 million mobile computing devices that do not support Flash and will never support Flash. That number will be over 150 million by the end of 2011, so things will have to change.

          Adobe can easily prove Apple’s decision is wrong, and not by filing complaints to the governments in the U.S. and Europe. But they haven’t done so, at least so far.


          • Richard says:

            @Gene Steinberg,


            You have the shoe on the wrong foot. It is up to Apple to deal with existing standards if they want to make any pretext of having a full internet experience. You are simply in a state of denial. Step away from the reality distortion field. The view is much better on the outside.

            Steve promised “all the internet” with the original iPhone. Steve lied.

  9. Voipter3 says:

    I believe Adobe needs to realize that their flash need a complete rehaul from ground up and make it secure and use more technological advance ways. As Gene pointed out its not Apples problem and Adobe needs to spend more time fixing problems than playing a blame game. Also they really shouldn’t ignore the linux crowd as there is a market in there. It not all about free or opensource, people will pay for real commercial productive programs especially photoshop which linux is lacking. To just let you all know I am not an Apple user but definitely not a Adobe lover.

Leave Your Comment